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Keeping a campaigner's message alive

Wednesday 26 July 2000

 Following the cry "Let's spread the message of Sue", they released the red balloons. Picked up by the wind, they flew up and over the church roof.

Attached to each of the balloons was a card. On one side was a picture of a smiling woman with the words in memory of Sue Meeuwissen 15.4.1962-18.7.2000. On the other, a message in bold type: "where people smoke matters".

Susan Elizabeth Meeuwissen was an anti-passive smoking campaigner whose funeral was held yesterday at St Stephen's Anglican Church in Mount Waverley. The balloons were part of the commitment her friends and family made to keep her message alive.

She was born with cystic fibrosis and had a double lung transplant six years ago, but a smoking-induced asthma attack set off an infection and the rejection of her new lungs that ended in her death.

Her friends and family - some of whom attended a gathering last month with Sue to celebrate her life - remembered her yesterday not just as a campaigner but a personal inspiration in her fight to live, enthusiasm for life and audacious schemes.           

Apparently she had stolen a kiss from Prince Charles; kidnapped "Dave and Mabel", two cockatoo TV stars; stood for election; been a successful rally car driver; e-mailed politicians about nurses' conditions the week before her death; travelled to Paris to deliver a paper to the Ninth World Conference on Smoking or Health; and organised a cystic fibrosis fund-raising concert attended by unsuspecting middle-aged women - the event featured male strippers.

But her family regarded her campaign to keep public space smoke free as her legacy. She was particularly concerned about the effect of passive smoking on babies, hospitality industry employees and people trying to access hospitals.

One friend, Anna Perri, described Sue's final time at the Alfred Hospital as she delivered advice and instruction almost to the end: "When Sue decided ... she could trust in the belief that we would continue her work, she announced to Sue's mother, Irene, that it was time, time for her to die.

"She said, `Anna, you know dying isn't difficult. In fact it's rather easy. You will understand when it's your turn. It is beautiful."

"Sue then asked to be made comfortable, reminded us to hold her and gently closed her eyes and drifted peacefully from this world to the next, as always with dignity, grace and a cheeky grin."

Balloon with an anti-passive- smoking message were released at Sue Meeuwissen’s funeral. Ms Meeuwissen was an anti-passive-smoking campaigner with cystic fibrosis who had a double lung transplant six years ago, but a smoking –induced asthma attack set off an infection and led to her death.
Picture Eamon Gallagher